Articles Posted in Military Law

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Section 511(a) of the Veterans' Judicial Review Act barred the Community's action against the VA for failing to reimburse the Community for the care it provided to veterans at tribal facilities. In this case, the Community sought review of the VA's determination that two provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did not require the VA to reimburse the Community absent a sharing agreement. The panel held that such a determination fell under the jurisdictional bar of section 511(a) because it was plainly a question of law that affected the provision of benefits by the Secretary of the VA to veterans, and the relief requested could clearly affect the provision of benefits. The panel also held that the presumption in Montana v. Blackfeet Tribe of Indians, 471 U.S. 759, 766 (1985), did not apply to section 511(a). Finally, the Community's argument that the district court had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1362 was waived. View "Gila River Indian Community v. US Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action under the Federal Tort Claims Act brought by a surviving spouse, alleging wrongful death and malpractice when a medical center operated by the VA caused Randy Tunac's death. The panel held that, to the extent the complaint alleged negligence by VA healthcare employees, it had jurisdiction under the FTCA. However, the negligence claims regarding VA operations must proceed under the congressionally-mandated pathway set forth in the Veterans' Judicial Review Act (VJRA), and any appeal can be heard only by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The panel held that, to the extent the court had jurisdiction, the claims were barred by the FTCA's statute of limitations and those claims were not equitably tolled. In this case, the two year statute of limitations had long run when plaintiff filed her administrative claim and any alleged concealment by the VA of a widespread problem regarding delayed treatment did not result in concealment of the operative facts that would merit equitable tolling. View "Tunac v. United States" on Justia Law

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The federal catchall statute of limitations in 28 U.S.C. 1658(a) applies to private suits alleging violations of section 303(c) of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's action under the SCRA as time-barred. The panel held that the complaint arose under an Act of Congress enacted after 1990 and was thus governed by the four year statute of limitations period in section 1658(a). In this case, plaintiff filed suit almost six years after the sale of his home and thus his complaint was untimely. View "McGreevey v. PHH Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Military Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's tort action against the United States for the tragic death of his wife. Plaintiff's wife was a lieutenant in the Navy and she died due to a complication following childbirth. The panel held that plaintiff's medical malpractice claims were barred under the Feres doctrine, which provided governmental immunity from tort claims involving injuries to service members that were incident to military service. View "Daniel v. United States" on Justia Law

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Petitioner alleged that the Army terminated him and excluded him from his work site because he had made complaints that were protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. The Ninth Circuit dismissed the petition for review of the Board's adverse decision, holding that the Army was the only proper respondent; petitioner received due process; and the Board's decision on the merits was supported by substantial evidence and was procedurally proper. Accordingly, the court denied in part and granted in part as to the petition for review of the Army's adverse decision, remanding for further proceedings. View "Johnen v. U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board" on Justia Law

Posted in: Military Law

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Plaintiff filed suit under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4311(a), arguing that when he returned from service in the U.S. Air Force, FedEx improperly paid him a $7,400 bonus instead of the $17,700 bonus he would have earned had he not served. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision awarding plaintiff the higher signing bonus and attorney's fees. The panel held that arbitration was not required in this case; the district court properly used the reasonable certainty test to determine that plaintiff showed by a preponderance of the evidence that his military service was a "substantial or motivating factor" to cause an adverse employment action; the district court properly relied on the the escalator principle, which provides that a returning service member should not be removed from the progress of his career trajectory; the district court did not clearly err in finding that plaintiff was reasonably certain to have achieved the higher bonus status had he not left for his military service; the district court correctly concluded that plaintiff's bonus was, in part, a seniority-based benefit; and even if the signing bonus were not a seniority-based benefit, Section 4316 still would not bar plaintiff's claim. View "Huhmann v. Federal Express Corp." on Justia Law

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Ground Zero filed suit challenging the Navy's expansion of a TRIDENT nuclear submarine operating center pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. The Ninth Circuit held that the Navy violated NEPA's public disclosure requirement by not revealing that the Safety Board withheld approval of its plan for the construction of a second Explosives Handling Wharf (EHW-2), and by withholding the now-disclosed portions of the appendices to the environmental impact statement (EIS). However, such errors were harmless. In all other respects, the Navy satisfied NEPA's requirements. Therefore, the panel affirmed summary judgment for the Navy. The panel narrowly construed the district court's order restricting Ground Zero's use of portions of the record. Even with this reading, it was not clear that the district court's order comports with the First Amendment. Therefore, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action v. US Department of the Navy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who had endured many hardships in 2003 while trying to leave Baghdad, alleged, in a purported class action, that former officials of the President George W. Bush administration engaged in the war against Iraq in violation of the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350. The district court held that plaintiff had not exhausted her administrative remedies as required by the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, holding that the individual defendants were entitled to official immunity under the Westfall Act, 28 U.S.C. 2679(d)(1), which accords federal employees immunity from common-law tort claims for acts undertaken in the course of their official duties. The court upheld the Attorney General’s scope certification (determining that the employees were acting within the scope of their employment so that the action was one against the United States). The court rejected an argument that defendants could not be immune under the Westfall Act because plaintiff alleged violations of a jus cogens norm of international law from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law. Congress can provide immunity for federal officers for jus cogens violations. View "Saleh v. Bush" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301-4334. Plaintiff claimed that he was fired from his job after providing notice of his deployment to Afghanistan in the United States Navy Reserve. The court joined its sister circuits and held that the plain text of USERRA does not preclude the compelled arbitration of disputes arising under its provisions. Furthermore, plaintiff has failed to establish that the legislative history evinces Congress’s intent to prevent the enforcement of the arbitration agreement he signed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration and dismissing the complaint. View "Ziober v. BLB Resources" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, veterans' organizations and individuals subject to U.S. military chemical and biological weapons experiments, filed an individual and class action complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the DOD, the Army, the CIA, and the VA. Two of plaintiffs’ claims, brought under section 706(1) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706(1), are at issue in this appeal: first, the Army has unlawfully failed to notify test subjects of new medical and scientific information relating to their health as it becomes available; and second, the Army has unlawfully withheld medical care for diseases or conditions proximately caused by their exposures to chemicals during the experiments. The court held that Chapter 3–2(h) of AR 70-25 imposes a duty on the Army to provide all former test subjects with newly acquired information that may affect their well-being, and that this duty is judicially enforceable under section 706(1); the district court did not abuse its discretion in entering its injunction to enforce that duty; the district court was right to find that Chapter 3–1(k) imposes a duty to provide medical care; but, the district court did not, however, have the power to decline to compel care on the ground that another agency was providing similar care to some former test subjects. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court’s summary judgment for the government on this claim and remanded to the district court. View "Vietnam Veterans of America v. CIA" on Justia Law